While the pandemic rages on, the number of workers in the U.S. who are filing COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims is increasing and are accounting for a growing portion of overall claims.
While there is only data currently available from two states – California and Florida – the numbers coming out of the two states show the steady progression of claims being filed, although in Florida’s case the numbers don’t reflect all filed COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims. Additionally, the National Council on Compensation Insurance, which the rating agency for about 38 states will release it’s first numbers on coronavirus claims in September.
In California since the start of the year, workers have filed 22,621 COVID-19 workers’ compensation, according to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation. In June and July alone case rose by nearly 11,000 cases. In Florida there have been 5,693 COVID-19 indemnity claims filed since the start of the year, but the number of new claims has been falling.
The way the numbers are reported in those two states differs though as Florida only provides monthly reports on all COVID-19 claims that result in indemnity payments. California’s numbers include the total number of first reports of injury where COVID-19 was listed as the cause, so that number includes medical-only claims. There have been 5,252 denials of COVID-19 claims in California through July 31, according to the DWC.
The numbers in California are concerning as in the last two months COVID-19 claims have accounted for nearly 20% of all workers’ comp claims filed in the state.
There are concerns that if COVID-19 cases continue rising among American workers that it will start affecting workers’ compensation rates as insurers never priced pandemic illness into their policies. The rate pressure may also be less as other industrial injuries have fallen dramatically as not as many people are working as before.
In Florida, COVID-19 was the cause of 28% of indemnity claims in March, 36% in April, 23% in May and 25% in June.
All of the above figures are still raw data as the more claims may be filed for prior months and as more data is available, the true cost of COVID-19 on the workers’ compensation system will become apparent.
Who is filing claims
Mitchell International, a San Diego-based insurance data provider, has been tracking COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims and has found that claims were filed as follows:
- 66% of claims were filed by workers in the health care and social assistance industries
- 7% were filed by workers in public administration
- 4% were filed by workers in education
- 4% were filed by workers in manufacturing
- 3% were filed by workers in transportation and warehousing
- 16% were filed by workers in other sectors.
At the same time, the frequency of other typical workers’ compensation claims continues to fall. For example, in California in July there were only 16,000 total workers’ comp claims filed, compared to nearly 46,000 claims in July 2019.
As an employer, it’s encumbant on you to provide a safe workplace and that means also safeguarding your workers against transmission of COVID-19. OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and various states have issued return to work plans for employers to follow.
Most important a safe workplace today must now include:
- Social distancing between workers and workers and customers.
- Requiring employees to wear masks and other protective equipment depending on their risk.
- Regular sanitizing and cleaning.
- Plans for monitoring employee’s for COVID-19